2011 will be the third full summer for us here in Knoxville, and thus my third foray into vegetable gardening. 2009 was just some containers out on our back stoop, which was a good vegetable primer even if tomatoes were the only edible thing to come out of it. 2010 was our first year in this house and when I cleared out and planted the existing raised bed in the backyard. It worked out pretty great last year and made me want more.
So for this year, we decided that an expansion was in order.
We rented a tiller from Home Depot and ripped up the grass (AKA weed carpet) from the spot adjacent to the raised bed. Danny manned the tiller, so I can’t speak to that actual process, but it only cost $35 to rent it for 4 hours and it clearly did the trick. I had the duty of crawling through the dirt on my hands and knees sifting out all of the grass and weeds to make the dirt pretty.
We also ran the tiller through the raised bed since it was already overrun by weeds by late April. And that little separate raised-ish bed needed to be completely dug out by hand because there was years of messy growth going on in there. That was not fun. Here’s what that little beauty looked like before:
We also decided to put up a wire fence around the main garden area this year to keep out the varmints and stop the dogs from trotting all over my hard work. Chicken wire is way more expensive than I would have thought. At least we’ll be able to roll it up and use it again next year.
So what will be on the menu this summer?
- Green beans (in the little raised bed, seeds planted directly in the ground, as many plants as will sprout)
- Banana peppers (at the end of the little raised bed, one plant purchased from nursery)
- Bell peppers (in newly tilled area, started from seed indoors, 4 plants)
- Potatoes (in newly tilled area, seed potatoes purchased from Lowes, 20 hills)
- Okra (in newly tilled area, 4 plants purchased from nursery, 2 started from seed indoors)
- Corn (in newly tilled area, seeds planted directly in the ground, as many plants as will sprout)
- Tomatoes (in raised bed, 3 plants purchased from nursery, 8 started from seed indoors)
- Zucchini (in raised bed, 2 plants started from seed indoors)
- Yellow Squash (in raised bed, 2 plants purchased from nursery)
Most of the seedlings I started indoors are pretty sorry looking. I managed to keep 4 peppers and 8 tomatoes alive long enough to put them in the ground. I don’t have very high hopes though. They just look so weak and tiny. Note to self: next year not worth the effort, just buy the plants from the store.
The only things that were really worthwhile to start inside were the squash and zucchini. The yellow squash were looking really good, but after putting them in the ground there were several violent storms that must have killed them (along with 7 poor little okras). The zucchini is doing amazing, though.
You may also notice that there’s a fresh bed of mulch surrounding these lovelies. Yes, I heeded my own advice from last year and mulched the raised bed. The weeds in this thing are just out of control. So I laid down newspaper on top of the dirt then mulched over the top. It took 5 bags of mulch to cover it (just barely). It better work.
I’ve also heard now from several sources that Marigolds are good at keeping the bugs away. And I also thought that I had left a heck of a lot of open space around the edges of the bed. So I bought a flat of orange marigolds and planted them around the perimeter. There were also a few perennial herbs (parsley and chives) that I left growing around the edges.
I’m not going to the lengths of mulching in the newly tilled area because the weeds don’t seem to be as bad so far. Plus some of the things we planted in there are kind of an experiment, so I’m not quite as concerned about it. I’m really interested to see how the potatoes come up, and our few little corn stalks look strong so far.
I’ve heard people say that corn is hard to grow in a backyard garden because the bugs get into the corn before they grow big enough to eat. So we’ll just have to wait and see.
And all of the herbs this year are up on the deck in pots, and they too are doing fantastic so far.
Now that all of the hard stuff is done, we just have to sit and wait for our food to grow. If all goes well, I plan to plant a few fall veggies late in the season as some of the early stuff finishes up. I’d like to try kale and butternut squash. Or maybe spinach or acorn squash, I guess I have plenty of time to decide.